Three Key Insights to Take Away From ERA Convention 2021
The ERA Convention 2021 (Smart Rental) in Amsterdam was one of those life-affirming opportunities to spend time in real life amongst industry colleagues and friends. The Smart Rental theme allowed us to dive straight into a crucial market area and explore the industry’s evolving use of digital technology.
We attended with the specific aim of keeping an ear to the ground, engaging with customers, and participating in workshops to listen to the industry and hear what’s driving it currently. Our takeaway is split into three chapters; construction tech has a role to play in improving the customer experience, carbon emissions and regulation are in the air, and machine data is going to help the industry to a more profitable and productive future.
Rental is raising the bar on digitization to better serve construction
Rental companies want to be more than simply equipment providers, they want to get into service provision. By utilizing data captured from job sites and construction projects, they believe a role is emerging for them to provide consultancy to customers, helping them to right-size their fleets and extract more value from equipment rental.
And they want to track everything, e.g., experimenting with wearables to track the safety and productivity of personnel. It’s all in pursuit of improving end-user experiences and providing better service. Almost certainly, it’s going to mean giving customers access to useful data – the recent introduction of ePAL by IPAF was cited as a great example of putting data to good use.
Inspired by Silicon Valley technologists, rental companies want to start providing services like live tracking equipment rental workflow, from preparation to transportation and arrival at the job site, with customer updates and notifications throughout. They’re hinting at data utilization to create pay-per-use services, with the capability to bill the different sub-contractors for equipment placed on-site.
Three things that stood out from the conversation:
- Digitalization is past the tipping point and growing.
- A data-agnostic future beckons, not if, but when. But standardization is vital.
- A hardware-agnostic future has been mooted: “It’s all about the data,” said Norty Turner, SVP, Services & Advanced Solutions at United Rentals
Carbon is the elephant in the room
A survey at ERA reported that 38% of delegates visiting ERA have just got started with sustainability. One challenge they face is rental companies have no consistent standard for calculating their emissions. Rental companies are specifically looking at telematics as part of the solution. IoT-driven solutions can provide much-needed data to track, report, and benchmark emissions for key parameters from lifetime and utilization to energy consumption. What’s more, they can pay for themselves in a year.
Addressing the disparity in standards for calculating emissions, the ‘ERA CSR KPI Guidance Framework’ was launched in June this year. Developed by an independent consultant and “based on a review of the KPIs in use, and being reported against, by over 17 leading rental companies in Europe and the US” the framework groups KPIs into common themes and provides a long list of best practice KPIs in use across the industry.
EPI Consulting’s take suggests that rental companies start demanding their suppliers to follow proposed guidelines and use a common framework.
The ERA asserts that rental is an inherently sustainable business model. The association offers advice on the sustainability pages of its website to increase awareness of the circular economy and how rental supports this particular climate action. Usefully, it has also introduced the ERA Equipment CO2 Calculator, a free-to-use online tool that can calculate the lifetime carbon footprint of any construction equipment on a per-hour-of-use basis. Version 2.0 is hotly anticipated, which includes the capability to track hand tools too.
Rental market making a slow return to pre-pandemic conditions
Our last takeaway concerns the expected economic recovery from the 2020 pandemic-induced downturn. The 2021 ERA Market Report projects most regions will return to 2019 levels during 2022. Most notably, the rental market is forecast to grow across all European regions as more contractors choose to rent rather than own equipment in the current market.
Just as the construction industry is struggling with supply chain shortages in components and raw materials, it is also suffering a skills shortage. This is forcing rental businesses to find other ways to meet demand and again, they’re turning to telematics and software services to provide a remedy and help them more value from the equipment and materials they have on hand.
If you are curious what Trackunit’s telematics solution has to offer for your business, you can request a demo here and we’ll get in touch.